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Editorial: Teachers deserve respect, not spin

September 25, 2018

Teachers used their creativity in communicating a message during a rally for education funding in Raleigh.

CBC Editorial: Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2018; Editorial #8343 The following is the opinion of Capitol Broadcasting Company

North Carolina’s legislative leaders have come up with lots of ways to say they’re paying public school teachers well. With the help of Republican-oriented “think tanks” they point to questionable claims of accelerated pay raises, cost-of-living differentials and use local supplements – particularly from a handful of the state’s urban school districts – to paint a rosier pay picture.

First, average teacher pay – the average salary for all North Carolina’s public school teachers – is NOT what the average teacher makes. Nearly two-thirds of the state’s public classroom teachers were paid LESS than the average.

Also, average teacher pay includes local supplements, money that comes from local taxpayers in specific districts, that vary widely depending on the school district. Several districts don’t provide any supplements. Yet, the expectations of a second grade teacher in Bertie County (which doesn’t provide a local supplement) are no different than the expectations of a second grade teacher in Wake County, which provides one of the most generous supplements. In fact, North Carolina courts have ruled the state’s Constitution mandates “a sound basic education” for every child.

The unfortunate reality is that North Carolina has become something of a national punching bag for teacher pay. Earlier this month the New York Times, in a story titled ”The Second Shift: What teachers are doing to pay their bills,” highlighted an Iredell County middle school teacher (who reached peak pay and has been in the classroom for 19 years) forced to work a second job to make ends meet.

A recent report from the Economic Policy Institute showed the gap between wages for teachers and other college graduates is at the highest level ever. The pay differential – the institute calls the difference between what teachers are paid in relation to comparable workers as the “teacher pay penalty.” North Carolina ranks 49th – only Arizona is worse. North Carolina teachers earn 35.5 cents on the dollar compared to what other college graduates earn.

Overall public school education funding still lags. “In constant dollars, North Carolina’s spending per student peaked at $9,952 in 2007-08, ranking 40th in the nation. State support per student continued to slide to $8,784 in 2012-13, when North Carolina ranked 46th. As North Carolina’s population continued to grow, state legislators made incremental increases until spending per student reached an estimated $9,528 in 2017-18, ranking 39th. But spending per student still remained $424 less than pre-recession levels in 2017-18, after adjusting for inflation,” according to a recent analysis from the Higher Education Works Foundation.

This is not a record that represents a commitment to quality public schools and respect for the professionalism teachers bring to the classroom. In this election season incumbents are running on their record.

For too many incumbents, it is a record that disguises reality and short-changes teachers. It reflects a lack of respect for public schools and the educators who lead our classrooms. If those incumbents are on your ballot, look into the challengers and see if they pay more than lip service in support of public schools and respect the professionalism of classroom teachers.

Vote for legislative candidates who value teaching and truly want a quality system of public education.

See you at the polls.

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